Living Well

Women: Putting your health first is not selfish - it’s necessary!

Dr. Nelly Aoun, Cancer Care
Women: Putting your health first is not selfish - it’s necessary!

Did you know: Women in this country make about 80% of healthcare decisions for their families, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). Despite that overwhelming number, when it comes to a woman's own health, it often gets lost in priorities.

It's okay to put yourself first

Many women are head of the household, which means juggling responsibilities such as jobs, children, and taking care of aging parents. A recent survey  on a women’s website found that women put themselves last behind their children, pets, senior relatives, and their spouse or significant other. The same survey reported 78% of women put off making a doctor’s appointment for themselves because they're too busy taking care of everyone else.

But ladies, if you're not taking care of your own health, you can’t possibly help others. Taking care of yourself should be number one on your list, not last.

INSPIRATION: National Cancer Survivors Day celebrates life beyond a cancer diagnosis

Health issues change as we age

Not only are women delaying taking care of themselves, but there's a lack of education on important health issues. A recent study by MDVIP, a website developed by primary care physicians, showed 94% of women who took a health IQ quiz failed. Some of the findings included: 

  • 91% didn't know heart disease with the number one killer of women
  • 81% didn't know pap test only screens for cervical cancer
  • 69% didn’t realize that alcohol increased your risk for breast cancer

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Be more selfish - it's the doctor's orders! 

Another survey statistic focused on attitude when it came to seeing a doctor. For older women, 44% said they waited until a health symptom became urgent before scheduling an appointment, but that number jumped to 62% for women aged 20-34. While it’s definitely understandable, and many factors can come into play when delaying an appointment, medical professionals will tell you women need to become a bit more selfish when it comes to their health.

Catching potential problems early is key to staying healthy, and knowing what health issues are common as you age is also important, such as:

  • 20s: Sexually transmitted diseases, human papillomavirus (HPV), and eating disorders are common among women in their 20s
  • 30s: Fertility decline, thyroid issues, and pre-diabetes become an issue to those in their 30s, especially if a woman has had a child and is having difficulty taking the baby weight off
  • 40s: Mental health issues can appear for those in their 40s due to hormonal fluctuations such as perimenopause, which is the start of menopause. The 40s are also the time to begin mammogram screenings if you have not been instructed to do that at an earlier age.
  • 50s: Women in their 50s and beyond need to be aware of heart disease and the risks of various cancers. Getting a regular wellness check-up is a key to staying healthy.

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Your gift to yourself

Putting yourself first is not selfish when it comes to your health, as you can’t possibly be at your best and be available to help others if you are not healthy. If you've put everyone else’s needs before yours, take a step back and do something good for yourself. If you’ve not had a wellness check-up in a while, make an appointment.

Use yearly milestones like an anniversary or birthday to book appointments so they're easy to remember and feel like a "gift" to yourself.

Breast cancer awareness should be top-of-mind year-round

Breast cancer prevention starts with screenings, especially if you're high-risk. Women who may fall into the high-risk category have a family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or prostate cancer impacting multiple generations of a family. Women whose families have generational cancer may be advised to start mammogram screenings earlier in life as for prevention.

At West Jefferson Medical Center, our Women’s Imaging Center offers advanced mammogram technology, including 2D digital mammography, 3D-Tomosynthesis mammography and digital mammography with Computer-Aided-Detection (CAD). West Jefferson also provides two convenient locations for imaging services:

Take this month to take care of your health, and let that start with a mammogram. If you need to make an appointment at one of our locations, it’s as simple as dialing 504.608.2851 or going to the hospital’s patient portal.

About Dr. Aoun

Dr. Nelly Aoun is a board-certified physician in Internal Medicine, Hematology, and Oncology with West Jefferson Medical Center. Her interests in Hematology-Oncology include diagnosing and treating a different variety of cancers, clinical research and palliative care. She has also started an early screening and prevention program to detect and manage patients with high risk of developing breast cancer.